Innovations in products like the flame-resistant water heater, quieter and more efficient space heating products, boilers and aesthetically pleasing fireplaces, and outdoor grills continue to stimulate the consumer's appetite for a new generation of appliances - witness the upturn this year in appliance shipments across most sectors of our industries.
Based on industry activity in the past 6 months and on increasing signs of a healthy economic recovery, the future is looking bright. For example, overall boiler shipments showed a 10-percent growth this year, and residential water heaters showed a healthy 9-percent increase over 2002. Shipments of commercial products are somewhat slower in increases, but still improving. Furnace shipments have come back to life and are showing signs of a 4-percent increase over last year.
Product shipment increases tell only part of the story. Through GAMA's efforts, our industries enjoyed a successful year working through Congress and the state legislatures, the regulatory agencies, and the courts when necessary to assure that manufacturers can continue to offer consumers quality products at affordable prices. GAMA won its lawsuit against the California Energy Commission (CEC) at the federal district court level, successfully challenging provisions of the CEC's Title 20 Appliance Efficiency Regulations as preempted by the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA). This stopped the duplicative state product marking and information reporting requirement already in place at the federal level. The decision is under appeal.
GAMA also worked to amend the comprehensive federal energy bill and to grant trade promotion authority for U.S. President Bush to reform the class action system, and to prevent a patch work of state energy-efficiency standards for new products, as well as to limit the scope of state waste recovery legislation - all issues which have profound effects on our members' bottom lines.
Much work, however, remains to be done in 2004. As bright as the future appears in many directions, we still face the sad fact that American manufacturing jobs are migrating to more favorable economic climates. We need our government to make real policy changes to revitalize manufacturing here at home. We need to re-create a favorable environment for manufacturing by reducing the burdens on U.S. companies. Even under sometimes adverse conditions, U.S. manufacturers still manage to achieve innovation and to grow productivity through resourcefulness and resolve, but those alone will not add high-paying manufacturing jobs back into our economy.
For 2004, GAMA's agenda will be enlisting the aid not only of additional federal agencies but also those of foreign governments to address the growing problem of product counterfeiting; by reducing the cost of employer-provided health care through tax credits and medical liability reform; by instituting product liability and other legal reforms that eliminate frivolous lawsuits and the astronomical costs for a legal defense that businesses incur; by implementing new energy initiatives that assure businesses with steady and cost-effective supplies of power for manufacturing and consumers with affordable energy to run our products; by reforming tax policy in order to encourage new research and development, new capital investment, and new job creation; and by promoting open markets for U.S. goods overseas through President Bush's expanded trade negotiating powers.
I don't deny that all this fills our plate to overflowing for the new year, but American industry hasn't achieved its prominence in the world today by shrinking from a challenge, and we won't back away from this one - there's too much at stake.